"Where We Go One, We Go All": QAnon and the Mediology of Witnessing

Author ORCID Identifier


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


“Where We Go One, We Go All”: QAnon and the Mediology of Witnessing

When critics admonish their opponents for circulating mere conspiracy theories, they are disparaging them for subscribing to facile accounts of socio-historical phenomena that are more sophisticated and aleatory than such heavy-handed narratives apprehend. Unfortunately, this kind of disavowal has the side-effect of precluding conspiracy theories from more serious philosophical consideration.

Arguably the most notorious information age conspiracy theory of the moment is QAnon, a byzantine, messianic truther echo-system that has recently irrupted into mainstream public consciousness. QAnon derives its name from “Q,” a lurid, anonymous, putatively omniscient insider who has been dropping missives on message boards about Donald Trump’s clandestine war with a satanic, sex-trafficking, election-fixing cabal that lurks beneath the liberal establishment.

In order to engage with QAnon as a cultural phenomenon, my article probes the rhetorical coordinates of the popular concept of conspiracy theory through optics provided by Kenneth Burke and Jodi Dean. Drawing on the recent media scholarship of Carrie Rentschler, Kate Starbird, and John Durham Peters, I then examine QAnon culture as a misguided activist modality of witnessing (what Alain Badiou might call a “pseudo-Event”) precipitated, in no small part, by rhetorical and algorithmic architecture that subtends an ever-increasing proportion of human subjectivity.

I conclude with some reflections on the viability of what media theorist Jonathan Sterne terms an "intervention."